BBC reveals Micro:bit computer's final design

The latest model for the pocket-sized computer was unveiled in London on Tuesday, which will be handed out to approximately one million children in the UK to encourage digital literacy.  

The single-board microcomputer is equipped with processors, sensors, a programmable array of red LED lights and two buttons and a built-in motion sensor that were not included in the prototype revealed back in March.

Similar to the Raspberry Pi microcomputer, it will be compatible with other computer kits and devices via Bluetooth, as well as flashing up messages on its LED lights. Micro:bit was designed and funded with a partnership of 25 companies including ARM, Barclays, Microsoft, Samsung, Freescale and Nordic Semiconductor.

The device will act as an introduction to computer science to tie in with the UK’s digital curriculum. The hope is that its distribution will trigger an increase in digital creativity that could help close the skills shortage in the technology sector. Up to one million will be distributed to every year seven schoolchild, beginning this autumn.

Sinead Rocks, the head of BBC Learning, said: “We happily give children paint brushes when they're young, with no experience - it should be exactly the same with technology.

“The BBC Micro:bit is all about young people learning to express themselves digitally and it's their device to own.

“As the Micro:bit is able to connect to everything from mobile phones to plant pots and Raspberry Pis, this could be for the internet of things what the BBC Micro was to the British gaming industry.”

The BBC also said it will be setting up a non-profit organisation around the Micro:bit and making the hardware open-source to allow firms to alter and sell Micro:bit devices in the UK and internationally.

The initiative follows on from the 1980s BBC Micro scheme which introduced many schoolchildren to computing for the first time. It was a great success, selling over 1.5 million units and was widely adopted in British schools and universities, most recently inspiring the creation of the best-selling Raspberry Pi.

Simon Segars, CEO of ARM, said: “Technology is now as much a part of childhood as riding a bicycle or kicking a football, but going from user to innovator is something we still need to encourage.

“The BBC and Acorn Computers, where ARM technology was first created, came together 35 years ago to develop the BBC Micro and that inspired the engineers now at the forefront of shaping our increasingly connected world.”

The Micro:bit has changed significantly since it was announced. The device now has a friendly rectangular shape, designed by Shoreditch hardware start up Tech Will Save Us. The board now features an ARM Cortex M-O processor and an accelerometer and magnetometer, as well as the pre-existing 5x5 LED matrix display and two face buttons. The coin cell has also been swapped for a AAA battery pack for use when untethered from a PC, Wired reported.

A new website will also launch this summer that will become a coding and programming area that will include Blockly, Python, and Microsoft's TouchDevelop platform for users to edit how their Micro:bit works.

BBC Micro:bit infographic

BBC microbit infographic  

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